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‘Veere Di Wedding’ Has Its Moments, But It Doesn’t Have Much To Do With Women

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A movie with four female protagonists seems very feminist on the offset, but this isn’t the case with “Veere Di Wedding”, starting Swara Bhasker, Shikha Talsania, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, and Kareena Kapoor Khan in title roles. The movie intended to be a commercial success eventually embraced the only thing that could salvage it despite having an all-female cast – making it all about men. The movie isn’t about these four characters and their lives; it’s about the men in their lives and only about that.

Every conversation, every plot-point, every backstory, is associated with men these women either date, marry or have sex with. They do not own the movie, these men do.

A movie about four women, women said to be independent, empowered, and strong, yet their lives revolve around men. Sonam Kapoor, a passionate lawyer who seems rather good at her job only aspires to be someone’s wife and mother, her career is pushed to the background, and her storyline revolves exclusively around her attempt to find a groom. What Kareena Kapoor does for a living isn’t even mentioned, she lives in Australia, and that’s all we know about her. Shikha Talsania is probably a housewife living with her American husband and the child she had with him; her family has disowned her for the wedding. Swara Bhasker is a woman with wealthy parents, who is going through a divorce.

Surprisingly – or maybe, rather unsurprisingly for Bollywood – the movie does not feature one conversation between the women that isn’t about men or marriage.
This isn’t a tale of friendship or life, this is a tale about four women and their men and only their men, as though, that’s all there is to their lives.

The movie, also, like most Bollywood movies, resorts to tired stereotypes, especially about gay men. The usual gay stereotypes that Bollywood promotes were present throughout the film, a gay man who uses excessive hand gestures, nods a little too much, is passionate about female fashion, and has a ridiculously exaggerated accent. With every movie, we constantly push the idea of men who identify as gay ‘behaving gay’ or ‘looking gay’ or having ‘gay personalities’. Gay men in Hindi movies are loud, feminine, detached from reality, a stereotype we blatantly and carelessly promote, without once considering its implications on the lives of real gay men.

It isn’t just gay men who are wronged in this movie, though. The movie takes a very toxic attitude towards men in general. In a scene where Sonam Kapoor’s character attempts to kiss a man, and he declines and leaves, Swara Bhasker’s character says he must be gay if he passed on a kiss from a woman. Men as horny people who will never pass on sex, whether consensual or not is a widely accepted notion. Men are ridiculed on screen and in life for passing on sex or anything sexual and even for not taking pleasure in sexual abuse or coerced sexual activity.

Although, the film does have some refreshing moments between its carefully constructed plot, built this way to guarantee a commercial success. The women openly discuss sex, they swear like most of us do, and drink when surrounded by people, as well, and wear whatever they desire. This has received severe criticism, with people saying women don’t have to speak about sex, swear, smoke or drink to be empowered, but what they fail to see is, this isn’t about empowerment, this is about reality. These women don’t drink or swear to seem empowered; they do it because that’s what real women like us do. We discuss sex, swear, and some of us drink or smoke, and it was pleasant to see female characters in a film doing this instead of subscribing to the idea of what a good woman should do according to patriarchal standards.

Another revolutionary aspect of this film is Swara Bhasker’s character. She is seen masturbating in a scene, a scene that is very vivid, prolonged, and not subtle in the least. It wasn’t a passing mention or a fleeting moment. Although, in spite of the progressive nature of the scene, its portrayed as something she does out of utter desperation and in the prolonged absence of a sex life, this justification for a woman embracing the fact that she is a sexual being and sexually pleasing herself, kills the momentum of the scene and completely takes away from it. An unprecedented and even empowering scene seen in a film for the first time, sending out a message of owning and controlling our bodies and our sexuality, is completely ruined by this unnecessary justification.

In spite of this, it is Swara Bhasker’s character who single-handedly salvages the movie, that is, if it has been salvaged at all. Usually, a character like that of Bhasker’s will be the bad woman in a Bollywood movie. She will be the antagonist; she will be the woman that will ask us to root for the protagonist just because she is the polar opposite of her. But, not in “Veere Di Wedding”. We root for Swara Bhasker’s character as much as we root for the other three leads. Her character is an alcoholic, who dresses as she pleases, talks sex, swears, and has complete control over her life and never once attempts to be the women she isn’t, only to be the poster-child of the good woman patriarchy demands.

Though it’s a shame, that even today, we can’t expect a story about women to be a commercial success and have to ultimately make it about men. This movie could have been what it claimed to be if it really would be about these four women if it really would be their story if it really would be about their life and being. A movie with an all-female cast fails the Bechdel Test, which isn’t too shocking for a Bollywood movie. Although by allowing these women to speak of sex, swear, and dress, as they please and considering what they did with Swara Bhasker’s character, is revolutionary and unprecedented, between all the rightful criticism, we need to remember that this is to be celebrated and still is a rather small, but significant victory.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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